LIMA — Bird-watching has become one of the fastest growing hobbies in the country, with an estimated 45 million enthusiasts engaged in the sport.
Birders in Allen and seven surrounding counties share their love of the hobby, as well as a universal enthusiasm for programs and projects which benefit the environment, through membership in the Tri-Moraine chapter of the National Audubon Society. The chapter covers Allen, Auglaize, Hancock, Hardin, Logan, Mercer, Shelby and Van Wert counties.
Dr. Jackie Augustine, an associate professor at the Ohio State University-Lima campus, became interested in bird-watching at an early age and “sought out Audubon organizations wherever I’ve been.”
For the past 10 years, that has been with the Tri-Moraine chapter. She said members of the local chapter are a diverse group of people with a common interest in the environment.
“We do monthly field trips and take part in the annual Christmas Bird Count, with outings at Grand Lake (St. Marys) and Indian Lake,” Augustine said. “During the Christmas counts, we collect data on common birds, and it’s also a good excuse to get outside.”
Recently the group teamed with the Johnny Appleseed Metropolitan Park District to conduct another annual event, the Great Backyard Bird Count, which provides less experienced birders the chance to learn more about the hobby from more veteran birders.
But Augustine stressed that the Tri-Moraine Audubon Society is about much more than bird-watching.
“Our members have a lot of environmental interests. If the birds are slow, we look at insects … or mushrooms.”
She said members go on field trips, take pictures, feed birds, educate, support environmental activities, plant trees and enjoy spending time with other nature lovers. Tri-Moraine Audubon has numerous fundraisers throughout the year to raise money for environmental education and habitat improvement projects.
Augustine said members are proud of the habitat restoration projects in which the club have been involved. Topping that list is the chapter’s acquisition of the former Camp Myeerah Girl Scout property in Bellefontaine.
“We purchased the property and then donated it to the Bellefontaine Joint Recreational District just to keep that wonderful property open to the public,” she said.
Augustine said 2019 has been deemed the “Year of the Bird” in recognition of the 100th anniversary of the Migratory Bird Act, which provided federal protection to certain migratory species.
The Tri-Moraine chapter of the National Audubon Society meets at 7:30 p.m. the first Tuesday of the month (with a break during winder months) at the Student Services Center on the OSU-Lima campus. Annual membership dues are $15.